UAlberta Confession needs an archive

A few years ago, UAlberta Confession emerged as the unofficial student voice of the U of A.

The Facebook page started as something of a free-for-all in which anyone could post virtually anything they liked. There were miscellaneous comments, student concerns, advice for timid males that suggested, more often than not, to simply “talk to her.” Anecdotes about the absurdities, banalities and glories of the university experience followed. Michael Chow and Kyle Sutton made names for themselves across campus with their bizarre and lewd comments. Debates interrupting the frivolity attracted both calculated, insightful responses and irreverent sarcasm.

It’s not as if Confession usurped The Gateway, but we must re-conceptualize our role on a campus that communicates online. The Gateway remains the source for interview-based articles, structured 500-650 word arguments, local stories, satirical experiments etc. Beginning as a space encouraging open access to comments like our Three Lines Free, Confession has developed something like an editorial standard: funny observations are generally put on Chitter while the Facebook page proper features numbered confessions that have lately been earning a consistently high number of likes. Student organizations including The Gateway would do good to pay attention to the admirable online presence Confession has built.

Compared to Confession, The Gateway has a much more sophisticated archive. Accessing our archive for material prior to 2013 is, for the most part, easily navigable online and is best used in conjunction with our extensive hard copy archive that dates back to 1957, with a few from the 40s. The Confession archive is scattered, inconsistent and beyond a certain date, virtually non-existent except for a few popular posts. Trying to access old Confession posts involves scrolling down the page ad infinitum and communicating with admins. Although they are cordial, trying to tell someone about an old random comment is a highly ineffective method.

There is a more significant issue at hand. A former Gateway volunteer recently came into the office and told a story about witnessing editors in the 80s throwing out Gateway archives (the reason why our in-office archives go back to only 1957 even though the newspaper was established in 1910). The scant Confession archives presently available to students and the public is subject to a similar process of erasure. Those in the future inquiring into the 2015 student consciousness would have incomplete information if they only looked at The Gateway.

Whether they’ve wanted to or not, UAlberta Confession has become culturally significant and should have at least an improved archive. A long-term project that Confession should consider is building a separate searchable website organized by dates featuring all posts since the page started. Obviously an easily navigable archive would be tremendous work for volunteer admins who run the page, but if the page’s popularity continues (20,199 likes as of October 21), selling ads and hiring employees to organize and allow full access to Confession content could be a possibility. Current and future students deserve as much.   

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